We need new words for friendship

Something that captures the nuances found in web vs. meatspace and work vs. non-work relationships

What’s between friend and foe?

If you scroll down and check out my thoughts on the “Who is the Bad Art Friend” article in the NY Times last week, one thing I didn’t talk about in my podcast nor below is the way that how we define “friendship” has gotten way more complicated in these modern times.

At the end of the day, the Art Friend story is pretty simple: One lady thought the other was a “friend;” the other lady didn’t think so at all. And assumptions and behaviors followed.

And sure, there have always been those of us who aren’t good at reading the room, or reading social cues, as folks are more likely to put it today. We’ve all met our share of backstabbers. Or overly familiar people that we believe we barely know. I think the article referenced resonated so much because, despite the lofty literary milieu, it reminded everyone of high school.

But in discussing this with my online friends, I heard another refrain, which was that sometimes it’s even harder to “read the room” when it’s an online space than in IRL rooms. That we’ve observed online friends who seem to fade away from engaging with us, and that just like the lady in the story, we noticed, and unlike the lady in the story many of us did not know what to do about it. So, never did anything about it.

It’s harder to define our relationships.

I have countless online friends that I engage with more often than my meatspace friends. And I consider many of them to be definitely real honest-to-God friends. If they came to town I’d invite them over. Almost to a person, I’ve met them in real life at one point, but for many, I couldn’t say exactly where or when.

But let’s say I hadn’t met them in person at some point. Is it not a real friendship even if you know the IRL component has never and is never going to be significant? When I congratulate you on your new baby and offer condolences when you lose a loved one, when I chime in to gossip about the latest binge-watch, or with advice about a work situation…that feels like friendship to me, even if I might never see you in person.

Add to this confusion the fact that many of us now have co-workers with whom we are “friends” online. Our colleagues didn’t just start seeing more of our real lives when COVID hit, and we began Zooming. That was already a thing because of social media.

Especially with remote work and remote colleagues so prevalent. we run up against the same semantic problems. Co-worker sounds cold. Colleague sounds, well, collegial. But is that sufficient? Meanwhile there’s more to it than being “just” friends.

Let’s throw some context into the mix. Do you call the same people different terms depending on whether you’re referring to them on Facebook, on LinkedIn, to an IRL friend?

Sex and the City is famous for coining the term “frenemy.”

Sadly I don’t think the works friend, acquaintance, colleague lend themselves to such a snappy, immediately understood portmanteau.

I LOVE a good portmanteau, but I’ve yet to find the perfect ones to clarify the nuances here.

Shall I call you my IRLfriend (like girlfriend without the g) if we met and have mostly engaged in meatspace?

Shall I call you my Interchum if it’s online?

I could go on. I’ll spare you.

But I’m super curious how you find yourself defining the people in your lives, all of your lives?

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Last week-ish

Last week’s episode of The Op-Ed Page podcast featured my thoughts on an article that has swept through the nerdy writer/reader communities to which I belong, namely the NYT’s Who is the Bad Art Friend? This story is not dying down yet, and more info on both sides of the debate is still coming out, but that didn’t stop me from adding fuel to the fire with my #hottake.

If you haven’t read the (very long, torturous) article, I think you’re lucky, and I do try to summarize it in the podcast. But mostly I really wonder about the NYT and why this ended up there and muse a little bit about the concepts of punching up vs. punching down. So I talk about who the Bad Art Friend is, but also a bit about Monica Lewinsky and the show Hacks and Dave Chappelle and more.

This story definitely has so many layers, all of which feel like they expose more of the uglier side of human nature. But it is undoubtedly human nature (and maybe that’s the only answer as to why the NYT would publish it in the first place).

Listen now!

I also had some pieces published over on the Kinder Beauty blog last week:

My 5 Favorite Vegan Halloween Treats
and
How to marry your passion for beauty/fashion/style with activism

I’ve also had several pieces go live on The Rosie Report, the one I wrote about reproductive healthcare being a business issue, plus two I edited:

What happened to the Labor Dept. guidelines on being an employee vs. a contractor? by Michelle Bomberger
and
Your pandemic policies are making employees love you or hate you by Allaya Cooks-Campbell

If you have something to say about the #futureofwork, especially if it’s connected to a book you have coming out or a piece of research you’ve done or an area of thought leadership you want to get more clips around, reach out to me at my rosie email and pitch me!

Coming this week-ish

Since the day of this writing is The International Day of the Girl, let me share a couple of things to check out this week:

  1. EqualityNow is having its start-studded virtual gala today (Tuesday, October 12). I’m signed up and here’s the link if you want to sign up too. Equality Now does great work for women and girls, addressing global issues like child marriage and FGM (female genital mutilation).

  2. Girls Leadership has released new research about girls with a headline that simply says TRUST GIRLS. I mean, sorry Beyonce, girls don’t quite run the world but imagine how the world would be if we just let them. And if that requires everything to be purple and for there to be many unicorns then I’M AN ALL FOR IT. [Disclosure: GL is the client of a client and I did some strategic work with them earlier this year. But I didn’t work on this research, and it looks very interesting!]

Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on all of the above. This is basically my blog now! And as always I appreciate a share of this newsletter or my podcast

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And if I can help you break through the things that are keeping you stuck, set up your first introductory 30-minute consult for free by booking it in my Calendly

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